Operation Swing Phase 2: Music Personalities in World War II

Student Author(s)

Colin Rensch

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Marc Baer and Dr. Brian Coyle

Document Type


Event Date



Besides the musical contributions of popular bandleaders and their famous jazz bands, bands of regular soldiers entertained their regiments while off duty during World War II. This past summer I researched the stories of such World War II veterans through the digital collections of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, Grand Valley State University, and the National World War II Museum. The work I conducted was a further step in my research on the role of jazz music in World War II and was sponsored by the summer fellowship program of the Mellon Scholars Program. The central argument of my Mellon project is that jazz music contributed to the success of the Allied war effort by helping to sustain the morale of soldiers and citizens who listened to jazz on a regular basis, by contributing financially to the effort through its performance at war bond fundraising concerts, and by personifying the American spirit of freedom. This past summer I listened to the stories of veterans to find out just how important the music was to them and if they were involved in service bands during their tours of duty. As part of the digital component of my project, I created a website to showcase this research and named the site after the name of my project: operationswing.com. Currently, the site contains the stories of four veterans who were particularly involved in jazz bands or affected by the performance of jazz during the war: Raymond Gill, Harold Fritzsche, Carl Henn, Jr. and Harry Connick, Sr. I will be continuing to add to the website, so stay tuned for more about the greatest generation and the greatest music of their time.

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